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Newsman Walter Cronkite dies at 92

July 17, 2009 at 9:04 PM   |   Comments

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NEW YORK, July 17 (UPI) -- Walter Cronkite, a broadcast journalism pioneer who became known as the most trusted man in America, died Friday in New York, CBS News reported. He was 92.

Cronkite anchored the "CBS Evening News" for two decades, beginning in 1961 until his retirement in 1981 at age 65 -- reporting on the Cold War, civil rights, the assassination of President John Kennedy, Vietnam, Watergate and the U.S. space program.

In a 1972 poll, Americans named him "the most trusted man in America."

Cronkite was a reporter's reporter for more than half a century in a career that carried him from World War II foxholes to the Great Wall of China to the launch pad of the U.S. space program.

Cronkite's national reputation as a journalist began at United Press, the forerunner of United Press International, where he honed the writing skills that became the hallmark of his later reports for the CBS television network.

His sign-off each evening, "And that's the way it is," is among the most familiar quotations in television history.

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo. His reporting career began in the 1930s as a campus correspondent for the Houston Press. Later he announced football games for a local radio station in Kansas City.

In 1937, he joined United Press and in 1942 became a war correspondent for the wire service, covering the battle of the North Atlantic, the invasion by Allied troops in North Africa and the Normandy beachhead assaults. Cronkite was with the 101st Airborne Division as it parachuted into Holland and with the U.S. Third Army in the Battle of the Bulge when it broke through the German encirclement at Bastogne in December 1944.

After reporting the German surrender, Cronkite re-established United Press bureaus in Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, and then became the wire service's chief correspondent at Nuremberg to report the war trials of Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and other top Nazis.

After the war, Cronkite was sent to Moscow as UP's chief correspondent. After two years he returned to the states to begin a broadcasting career in Washington for a group of Midwestern radio stations. He joined CBS in 1950, working in the network's Washington bureau.

He was noted for his expertise, fairness, fine writing and restraint. But, he was a man almost overcome by emotion when he broke into the regular CBS-TV programming at 2:38 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, to announce, his voice cracking, that President John F. Kennedy was dead, victim of an assassin's bullet.

Cronkite was the first newsman to anchor an expanded network television newscast when CBS went from a 15-minute to 30-minute report every evening. He was also among the first to broadcast directly from the White House, anchored every U.S. manned space flight, interviewed principals in the Watergate scandal and talked with and reported on the famous and infamous throughout his career that spanned almost half a century. He retired in 1981 as one of the most honored members of his profession.

Twenty years later, in a 2001 CNN interview, he admitted he missed covering the "great parade of events" going on since his retirement.

"I don't miss being on the air," he said. "I miss being at the center of gravity, getting the story together, getting the broadcast together, setting the agenda for the people's consideration. I miss that. I always wanted to be the first to know or one of the first, there's something about being on the inside."

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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